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message 1: by Dan (last edited May 15, 2018 11:18AM) (new)

Dan This ordered list is of the thirty authors whose science fiction work has my highest regard and the works each wrote that makes me think so highly of them.

1 Isaac Asimov
Foundation
The Caves of Steel
I, Robot

2 Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game
Speaker for the Dead
Ender's Shadow
Xenocide

3 H. G. Wells
The Time Machine
The War of the Worlds
The Invisible Man
The Island of Dr. Moreau

4 Robert A. Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land
Starship Troopers
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

5 Arthur C. Clarke
2001: A Space Odyssey
Rondezvous with Rama
Childhood’s End

6 Frank Herbert
Dune
Dune Messiah
Children of Dune

7 Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Man in the High Castle
A Scanner Darkly

8 Ursula K. Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Dispossessed

9 Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Around the World in Eighty Days
Journey to the Center of the Earth

10 Larry Niven
Ringworld
The Mote in God's Eye
Lucifer's Hammer

11 Andre Norton
Witch World
The Time Traders
Star Man's Son
The Beast Master

12 Mary Shelley
Frankenstein
The Last Man

13 C. J. Cherryh
Downbelow Station
Cyteen
Foreigner
The Pride of Chanur
The Faded Sun Trilogy

14 Anne McCaffrey
Dragonflight
Dragonsong

15 John Wyndham
The Day of the Triffids
The Chrysalids
The Midwich Cuckoos

16 Dan Simmons
Hyperion
The Fall of Hyperion

17 Lois McMaster Bujold
Shards of Honour
Barrayar
Falling Free

18 David Weber
On Basilisk Station
The Service of the Sword
1633
Heirs of Empire

19 Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Planet Savers
Darkover Landfall
The Door through Space

20 Robert J. Sawyer
Hominids
Flashforward
Calculating God
Wake

21 Piers Anthony
Chthon
Macroscope
Bio of a Space Tyrant

22 Robert Silverberg
Lord Valentine’s Castle
A Time of Changes
Hawksbill Station

23 David Brin
The Postman
Sundiver
Startide Rising
The Uplift War

24 Iain M. Banks
Consider Phlebas
The Player of Games
Use of Weapons

25 Joe Haldeman
The Forever War
Forever Peace
Camouflage

26 John Scalzi
Old Man's War
Redshirts

27 Gordon R. Dickson
Dorsai!
Soldier, Ask Not
Tactics of Mistake
Necromancer

28 Stephen Baxter
The Time Ships
Voyage
Proxima

29 Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451
The Martian Chronicles

30 E. E. Smith
Triplanetary
First Lensman
The Skylark of Space


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 718 comments That's an impressive list! I hope you don't mind if I give my personal opinion (I assume you were looking for discussion).

Regrettably I haven't read anything by Asimov (hoping to change that with next month's group read), Herbert, Norton, Wyndham, Simmons, Weber, Bradley, Sawyer, Silverberg, Brin, Banks, Dickson, Baxter or Smith. And I haven't read Verne since grade school.

Wells, Heinlein, Shelley, Anthony, Haldeman, Scalzi, Bradbury - wouldn't make my favorites list although I acknowledge their contributions to the genre

Le Guin, Niven, Cherryh, McCaffrey, Bujold - I've only read one of their books each which isn't enough for me to judge how much I like their work

Which leaves:

PKD - I agree wholeheartedly, one of my all-time favorites and I especially enjoyed the novels you mentioned - you might also want to try Ubik and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and also his short story collections.

Clarke - he had some great ideas which I think were best put to use in his short stories which are excellent. His novels tended to drag since he couldn't be bothered with things like plot and character development although I did enjoy Childhood's End, 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: Odyssey Two.

Card - I loved Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead along with the Alvin series and the Worthing Saga, but I thought his work dropped off in quality in the early 1990s with the exception of Ender's Shadow.

I'd add a few to my list:
- Jack Vance (Dying Earth series and others)
- Roger Zelazny (Amber series, Lord of Light)
- Ted Chiang (he only writes short stories but they are terrific - check out Stories of Your Life and Others)
- George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm)
- Michael Crichton (Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Sphere, Prey, Next)
- Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination)
- Frederik Pohl (Heechee series, The Merchant's War and its sequel)
- Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale)
- H. P. Lovecraft (At the Mountains of Madness)
- Neal Stephenson (Snowcrash)
- William Gibson (Sprawl and Bridge trilogies along with the excellent collection Burning Chrome)
- Kurt Vonnegut Jr (Slaughterhouse-Five)
- Richard Matheson (I Am Legend)
- David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)
- Dave Eggers (The Circle)
- Richard K Morgan (Altered Carbon)
- Ramez Naam (Nexus)

And these folks have potential to be added to my favorites list in the future:
- Andy Weir (The Martian)
- Ernest Cline (Ready Player One)
- Dennis E Taylor (We Are Legion (We Are Bob))
- Vernor Vinge (A Fire Upon the Deep)
- Scott Hawkins (The Library at Mount Char, assuming you want to classify this as SF)
- Douglas Adams (I'm going to keep re-reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy until I figure out why people like it so much)
- Elizabeth Moon (The Speed of Dark)
- China Mieville (The City & The City)
- Harlan Ellison (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream)
- Jeff Vandermeer (Annhilation)


message 3: by Dan (last edited May 16, 2018 11:04AM) (new)

Dan Thanks for the feedback. I will in particular keep your PKD recommendations in mind.


message 4: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
I'm not even going to attempt to figure out my favorites. Feel free to scan through my bookshelf.

I'm a little surprised to see Piers Anthony in your faves. His non-stop puns drive me bananas.


message 5: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
Randy wrote: "I'm going to keep re-reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy until I figure out why people like it so much..."

That may not work. I loved it back in the day, but only find it so-so now. Sometimes it isn't just the work itself, but whether you find it at the appropriate time in your life.


message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 4280 comments Mod
I agree with Ed on looking at bookshelves, but I'm also a moody reader. Some days an author is great only to be annoying on other ones.

I liked the first few Xanth books, but they got stale after that. Anthony has written some other interesting stuff, though. Var the Stick is the second book of a weird, post apocalyptic trilogy. It was really good. The first book was pretty good & the third one sucked. Macroscope is a good SF standalone & I really liked On a Pale Horse & Blue Adept, but thought those series got old quick, too. They were neat, new ideas when they came out.


message 7: by Dan (last edited May 16, 2018 06:24PM) (new)

Dan I am more of a purist in my science fiction than most people apparently. How Animal Farm or Lovecraft can ever be called SF I'll never understand. I disqualified a number of others for various reasons: Zelazny wrote good fantasy, but I can't think of a SF book he wrote I thought decent. Chiang and Ellison wrote only short stories. Matheson, Vandermeer, Crichton, Mieville, and Stevenson write something that is close to SF, but of their works I have read, all are missing some key ingredient that would allow me to consider it in the genre of SF. Adams, Pratchett, and Vonnegut don't make the grade because they write for humor's sake. That's not to say I mind humor in my SF, but it has to be incidental to the story, such as Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books (which I consider brilliantly funny and good SF), along with Heinlein's Starship Troopers: humorous, but not at the expense of the story. I disqualify Atwood for being too literary at the expense of the SF.

This is not to say I don't enjoy many of these works I disqualify. A few are brilliant. For example, I love Atwood's writing, but not for her contribution to SF.

All thirty of the authors I list can have the following answered affirmatively about their work:

1) Does the body of many of their best works (no one-hit wonders please) advance the SF field?
2) Are they intentionally writing SF, or in a genre that would one day unmistakenly come to be considered SF?
3) Do they belong in the top 30 because of their serious, prose (in the form of the novel) contribution to SF? No good editors, short story, alternative history, non-fiction, or humor writers need apply. Cyberpunk is a bit problematic for me too. I guess it qualifies as SF, but I won't include any in my top 100.

Some of the authors Randy mentions that I haven't listed would make my top 50. Others I simply don't know enough about.

P.S. I notice I made one omission that would knock E. E. Smith out of my top 30 that no one has yet mentioned. I forgot to include Sheri Tepper somehow. All of her work I have read is so imaginative!


message 8: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 4280 comments Mod
I tried reading one of the Lensmen books a while back & thought it was pretty awful yet I liked it way back when.

I only see 2 SF books of Zelazny's on your bookshelf, Dan. "He Who Shapes" was later expanded into The Dream Master & I didn't care for it in any incarnation, either. Damnation Alley is a lot of fun, but no masterpiece. Still way better than the Lensmen, though. He does have a few SF masterpieces, although he blurs the genre lines a lot.


message 9: by Oleksandr (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 974 comments My top-20 list of SF authors. In case these authors wrote fantasy as well I don’t include their non-SF works in the rating. It is also doesn’t rank them, so 1st is not better that 20th.
1. Anderson
2. Asimov
3. Bacigalupi
4. Bear
5. Heinlein
6. Herbert
7. Le Guin
8. Lem
9. Niven
10. Norton
11. Peter F. Hamilton
12. Pohl
13. Robinson
14. Scalzi
15. Simak
16. Simmons
17. Stephenson
18. Strugatsky brothers
19. Wells
20. Zelazny


message 10: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
Oleksandr wrote: "My top-20 list of SF authors.... 4. Bear..."

Greg or Elizabeth?


message 11: by Oleksandr (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 974 comments Ed wrote: "Oleksandr wrote: "My top-20 list of SF authors.... 4. Bear..."

Greg or Elizabeth?"


Greg. I heard accolades for Elizabeth but yet to read her. btw, there are some authors not on the list because I read 1 or 2 of their books and yet to decide. This includes Brin, Haldeman, Anthony, Aldiss


message 12: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
I'm drawn to stories that are different from anything I've ever read, and to works that are on the borders of genres rather than fit easily into a marketing category. Basically, I'm addicted to novelty. Sometimes that means I'll read things that won't stand the test of time, but then again, neither will my body, so what difference does it make?

I know people who want familiarity and will read 100s of books set in the Star Trek universe or in a Marvel or DC comics universe but are reluctant to read outside of that comfort zone. That is totally not me, though I can enjoy that sort of thing in a TV series, for example.

I sometimes have assumed that the early or mainstream SF works would be too predictable, and thus boring, to me, so I've skipped over a lot of classics. I've been surprised to learn that Wells and Capek and Bradbury can actually be enjoyable.

Among SF authors who have impressed me repeatedly at different points in my life I'd include PKD, Le Guin, Samuel Delaney, Arthur C Clarke.


message 13: by Leo (new)

Leo | 640 comments Cool, these lists.
I miss James Tiptree jr / Alice Sheldon. Only read Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, but it sure impressed me.


message 14: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Dan wrote: "I am more of a purist in my science fiction than most people apparently...."

Would you consider J. G. Ballard to be science fiction?


message 15: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
Leo wrote: "I miss James Tiptree jr / Alice Sheldon. Only read Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, but it sure impressed me."

That is a great collection of stories. Add her to my "list"!


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments When I was a teenager I was into science fiction, but by the time I graduated college I had stopped reading it. I mainly read philosophy. Later, when I started reading fiction again, I was just reading classics. But then in 2015 I read The Futurological Congress on a whim and my interest in science fiction was reborn.

That was my first book by Stanislaw Lem. Since then I've read (in order) Eden, Return From the Stars, Solaris, The Star Diaries, and Memoirs of a Space Traveler.

Last year I discovered Philip K. Dick. I read Ubik and was instantly addicted. I loved him so much I decided to read everything he wrote, preferably in chronological order. My reading order hasn't been perfectly chronological, but it's close. After Ubik, I read (in order) The Cosmic Puppets, The World Jones Made, Time Out of Joint, Eye in the Sky, and The Man Who Japed. Next on by PKD reading list is The Solar Lottery, which will be the last of his 1950s science fiction novels.

Another recent discovery was J. G. Ballard. I've read The Drowned World and Concrete Island. I don't know if I consider Ballard a science fiction writer. I enjoyed the two books I read and I plan to read more but I'm not crazy-in-love with him like I am with PKD and I'm not blown-away like I was after reading Lem's incomparable masterpiece, Solaris. But I am looking forward to High-Rise, which I'm about to read with one of my book groups.


message 17: by Oleksandr (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 974 comments Susan wrote: "That was my first book by Stanislaw Lem. Since then I've read (in order) Eden, Return From the Stars, Solaris, The Star Diaries, and Memoirs of a Space Traveler. "

Oh, Lem is great! He also has three books of reviews of non-existent books, which are hilarious if you understand the context (and if English translation is good)


message 18: by Susan (last edited May 18, 2018 07:43AM) (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Oleksandr wrote: "Oh, Lem is great! He also has three books of reviews of non-existent books, which are hilarious if you understand the context (and if English translation is good)"

Yes, I'm interested in that one. I loved the "science" parts of Solaris, so fictional non-fiction seems right up my alley.


message 19: by Oleksandr (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 974 comments Susan wrote: "Yes, I'm interested in that one. I loved the "science" parts of Solaris, so fictional non-fiction seems right up my alley. "

You can start with A Perfect Vacuum


message 20: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I loved him [PKD] so much I decided to read everything he wrote..."

Same thing happened to me. But this was before e-books and the internet was in infancy so I didn't have access to them all. Read the 4 or 5 I could find and then moved on to other things.

A similar thing has happened with multiple authors. So if I make a list of my favorite authors, it would be a list of the ones who gave me that feeling that I wanted to read all of their work. But time is short, and there is always more to explore, so I'll never really read everything by most authors, and it really is more fun to find a new great one than keep going with one single author. (You do whatever works for you. I'm just talking about my habits.)


message 21: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
Oleksandr wrote: "Oh, Lem is great! He also has three books of reviews of non-existent books, which are hilarious if you understand the context (and if English translation is good)"

Those meta-fictions are my favorite works of Lem. But it is pushing at the boundaries of what most people would consider SF. If you accept that, then you would need to accept some of Borges, Italo Calvino, Nabokov, .... I enjoy those, but I won't make the claim that these are SF. They are maybe SF-adjacent.

Two that might particularly appeal to Susan (or other fans of PKD) are Lint and The Cardboard Universe: A Guide to the World of Phoebus K. Dank. Both are essentially fake biographies of an author very much like PKD. I didn't enjoy "Lint" well enough to finish it, but did mostly enjoy "The Cardboard Universe".


message 22: by Oleksandr (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 974 comments Ed wrote: " But it is pushing at the boundaries of what most people would consider SF. If you accept that, then you would need to accept some of Borges, Italo Calvino, Nabokov, .... I enjoy those, but I won't make the claim that these are SF. They are maybe SF-adjacent."

When I was a teen, I stressed that I like SF and won't read anything else. Now I know I was wrong - there a lot of good books (and not enough time) in many genres, both fiction and non-fiction. Therefore, now while a greatest share of my fiction reading is SFF, I try other books if praised by friend/family as worthy reading.


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Ed wrote: "But time is short, and there is always more to explore, so I'll never really read everything by most authors, and it really is more fun to find a new great one than keep going with one single author..."

There are only a few authors where I really follow through with my vow to read everything. PKD might be one of them. But I have considered the possibility that my interest will wane. If so, my decision to read chronologically will be a bad one. At some point, I might skip ahead and read what I came to PKD for ~ the Valis trilogy. I initially felt that I needed a grounding in his earlier work to appreciate those books (and I still think so), but I probably don't need to read thirty novels to be properly grounded.


message 24: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments I've also read a few SF books that I really liked, but with no intention to read anything else by those authors. (Not that I definitely wouldn't read anything else).

A Case of Conscience by James Blish, The Bladerunner by Alan E Nourse, and The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner are books I remember enjoying in my teens. I reread them recently for nostalgia and I think I enjoyed them even more the second time around.

I stumbled upon Earth Abides by George R. Stewart a couple of years ago and it was an amazing experience. I wrote an unreasonably long review of it.


message 25: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (rpdwyer) | 165 comments Susan wrote: "Dan wrote: "I am more of a purist in my science fiction than most people apparently...."

Would you consider J. G. Ballard to be science fiction?"


I've read all his short stories, and I consider most of them science fiction. I think fiction writing about the near-future is a bona fide sub-genre of science fiction. Its the kind of story where you might read about it in the newspapers a year from now. Its fiction that is more likely to be prescient than other sub-genres.

For example, take Ballard's short story "The Insane Ones", written in the 1960s. In the story, psychiatry is outlawed, and mentally ill people are free to be insane; nevertheless the laws apply to the mentally ill like to anyone else.

Ballard--who had studied medicine--anticipated the deinstitualization of the mentally ill and the ensuing social disaster.

"With the closing of these state mental institutions it has become increasingly difficult for people who suffer from severe mental illness to receive treatment in a facility. Many mentally ill individuals were left homeless after deinstitutionalization, making up one-third of the homeless population (D.E. Torrey)." source: Wikipedia


message 26: by Dan (last edited May 18, 2018 07:29PM) (new)

Dan Sorry, but I know less than nothing about J. G. Ballard's writing. I wonder if he sells at all well in the U.S.

From reading the Wikipedia article on him, I see that he is known for writing dystopias, and only for writing dystopias. Dystopia is certainly one sub-genre of science fiction. However, if that's all he wrote in the genre, that in itself is rather limiting, wouldn't you say?

I have more respect for more versatile writers. Look at H. G. Wells, for example, who could write time travel, alien invasion, and advanced science gone wrong stories. Or Asimov: planets, robots, interstellar war. OSC: interstellar war, advanced technology, alien invasion, space travel and cryogenics. The SF greats can handle more than one sub-genre.


message 27: by Marc-André (new)

Marc-André | 298 comments I'm not sure I have a top thirty, but I do have a certain number of authors who struck me.

In no peticular order:

- Frank Herbert
- Neal Stephenson
- Charles Stross

The worldbuilding, the mastery (and deconstruction) of the genres, the dabling with big ideas, combine with the quality of the prose puts these authors a part for me.

- Hannu Rajaniemi
- Ada Palmer
- Ann Leckie

There are new-ish authors. They might be one hit wonders, but that potential one hit certain gave them a special place in my heart.

- Isaac Asimov
- Arthur C. Clarke
- H.P. Lovecraft

Old timers who help define the genre and are, sometimes, still relevant today. The quality of the prose, the themes, the plots, the characters varies and have not always aged well, but some of their work is still relevant today and I enjoyed them a lot.

-China Miéville

The unconventional. The unclassifiable. The uneven. When Miéville is good he is great. Like with Perdido Street Station and Embassytown. When he is bad... Miéville has a special place in my heart. I'll always check what he is publishing, even if it might be a stinker.

- Alan Moore

Genious is the word. The man produced so many iconoclast and post-modern graphic novels he deserves a special award. Unfortunately, the art wasn't up to the task and graphic novels aren't appreciated as they should be

- Yewgeny Zamyatin
- George Orwell
- Aldous Huxley

Authors whose one work have becomed must read as they are prophetic as they are comtemporary.

- Larry Niven
- Michel Houellebecq

I enjoyed past work and I want to read more of it before I say they are part of my top 30 sci-fi authors.


message 28: by Ronald (new)

Ronald (rpdwyer) | 165 comments Dan wrote: "Sorry, but I know less than nothing about J. G. Ballard's writing. I wonder if he sells at all well in the U.S.

From reading the Wikipedia article on him, I see that he is known for writing dysto..."


I encourage you to read J.G. Ballard. I think he can't be pigeon holed as a 'dystopian' writer.

Also, for me, one of qualities that determine a 'great' SF writer is prose style. Unfortunately, the SF community has tolerated poor writing for a long time. Crud still gets published in Analog magazine.

On prose style, Ballard towers over your 'greats' Wells, Asimov, Card.

Also, based on your post, and another one (I think it was about Starship Troopers), I get the sense that you seem to be uncomfortable when science fiction deals with social/political issues.
Science fiction is the literature of ideas. Deal with it.


message 29: by Rafael (last edited May 18, 2018 09:32PM) (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 146 comments Science fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with social and political issues mostly. There's no science fiction without them.


message 30: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 4280 comments Mod
Rafael wrote: "Science fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with social and political issues mostly. There's no science fiction without them."

SF can deal with anything it wants. Some of my favorites are romance, mystery, or plain adventure.


message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Ronald wrote: " I think fiction writing about the near-future is a bona fide sub-genre of science fiction. ..."

By that standard, The Drowned World is indeed science fiction.

Dan wrote: "Dystopia is certainly one sub-genre of science fiction. However, if that's all he wrote in the genre, that in itself is rather limiting, wouldn't you say?

I have more respect for more versatile writers..."


The Drowned World (and presumably The Wind from Nowhere, The Drought, and The Crystal World ~ I haven't read these yet) are dystopias, but Concrete Island is not. Unless there's some detail I'm not remembering, it's not dystopian, futuristic, or anything else I'd describe as science fiction.

I read through a lot of book blurbs to choose my next Ballard novel and it seems he is more versatile than you might think based on his dystopian beginnings.

Ronald wrote: "Also, for me, one of qualities that determine a 'great' SF writer is prose style..."

I agree with you about Ballard's prose style. When I read The Drowned World, I wasn't crazy about the second part of the story, but his prose kept me enthralled.

I've only read two of his novels so far ~ The Drowned World and Concrete Island ~ but I think I chose well.


message 32: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 2101 comments Mod
The description of The Drowned World makes me think of Annihilation.

(By the way, there is a separate topic thread in this group for discussing Ballard. I definitely consider his work SF, but haven't enjoyed any of it that I've tried, which is only a few pieces.)


message 33: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Ed wrote: "By the way, there is a separate topic thread in this group for discussing Ballard..."

I started that thread ~ LOL.


message 34: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Ed wrote: "The description of The Drowned World makes me think of Annihilation..."

I saw that movie recently. I see the resemblance in the exotic jungle scenery in both stories, one a devolution and the other a mutation.


message 35: by Dan (last edited May 19, 2018 07:11PM) (new)

Dan Rafael wrote: "Science fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with social and political issues mostly. There's no science fiction without them."

I really wish you were right on this, but sadly science fiction has been veering more and more, the past two decades especially, to being dominated by what are known as hard science fiction writers. That's one reason why you see so few current or even living writers in my top 30. That popular scourge known as hard science fiction is all about predicting, explaining, and otherwise expounding on the advances in natural science (physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, astronomy, engineering, aeronautics, etc.) This is usually done at the expense of character development and plot, which are given lip service, but are in practice rendered superfluous. The "prose" of these writers often more resembles a science manual than what I would consider a story. Writers like Peter Watts, Greg Bear, Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Paul J. McAuley, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, William Gibson (and all cyberpunk), etc. write in this vein, or it is my understanding that they do, which is enough to generally keep me away from their stuff.

Writers who deal with social and political issues (otherwise known as the soft or social sciences), as well as authors who are primarily interested in character development and what it says about us as struggling human beings of conscience today have a hard time finding an audience. As a result, so few writers now attempt to write that way that if they were to try, they would doom themselves to obscurity. You must go back to the 1940s through 1970s to find writing like that, resurrecting past masters of this vanishing art who are much less well known today than in their heyday, authors such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sheri Tepper, Gordon R. Dickson, Piers Anthony, James Tiptree, Jr., Mark Clifton, and Robert Silverberg, to name a few.


message 36: by Dan (new)

Dan Ronald wrote: "On prose style, Ballard towers over your 'greats' Wells, Asimov, Card."

To write such a sentence makes me suspect you have not read much Wells, or that you haven't paid much attention when you did. Asimov and Card have a highly refined, get-out-of-the-way of the story style that I can easily see might cause one to underestimate their artistry, but if you read closer you can see they always choose the right word. They always write the sentence at the right length for utmost clarity and ease of understanding. It's no easy skill and very understandably underestimated by the overly casual reader. To denigrate Wells' prose has to be plain ignorance. Here are but a few hastily found examples of his artistry:

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His pale grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burnt brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses.

We improve our favourite plants and animals—and how few they are—gradually by selective breeding; now a new and better peach, now a seedless grape, now a sweeter and larger flower, now a more convenient breed of cattle. We improve them gradually, because our ideals are vague and tentative, and our knowledge is very limited; because Nature, too, is shy and slow in our clumsy hands. Some day all this will be better organised, and still better. That is the drift of the current in spite of the eddies. The whole world will be intelligent, educated, and co-operating; things will move faster and faster towards the subjugation of Nature. In the end, wisely and carefully we shall readjust the balance of animal and vegetable life to suit our human needs.

Epilogue
One cannot choose but wonder. Will he ever return? It may be that he swept back into the past, and fell among the blood-drinking, hairy savages of the Age of Unpolished Stone; into the abysses of the Cretaceous Sea; or among the grotesque saurians, the huge reptilian brutes of the Jurassic times. He may even now—if I may use the phrase—be wandering on some plesiosaurus-haunted Oolitic coral reef, or beside the lonely saline seas of the Triassic Age. Or did he go forward, into one of the nearer ages, in which men are still men, but with the riddles of our own time answered and its wearisome problems solved? Into the manhood of the race: for I, for my own part, cannot think that these latter days of weak experiment, fragmentary theory, and mutual discord are indeed man’s culminating time!


message 37: by Oleksandr (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 974 comments Dan wrote: "I really wish you were right on this, but sadly science fiction has been veering more and more, the past two decades especially, to being dominated by what are known as hard science fiction writers. .., Writers like Peter Watts, Greg Bear, Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Paul J. McAuley, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, William Gibson (and all cyberpunk),"

I have to vehemently disagree that these authors omit softer sides of SF. Yes, not all their books are set on society-wide scale and yes, many are more interested in other topics, like "what constitute intelligence and is it different from self-awareness". But take Blood Music or Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear or Anathem or Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - they deal with society and how it is affected by their SF idea


message 38: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1093 comments Out of curiosity, do you not consider Jules Verne to be a kind of Hard Sci-fi? I've read two or three of his books and they often contain a lot of technical detail for example, From the Earth to the Moon? It's one of the reasons I find it difficult to enjoy his books. (Sorry writing from the app on my phone so I can't quote the appropriate part of the discussion).


message 39: by Ronald (last edited May 20, 2018 07:55AM) (new)

Ronald (rpdwyer) | 165 comments Dan wrote: "Ronald wrote: "On prose style, Ballard towers over your 'greats' Wells, Asimov, Card."

To write such a sentence makes me suspect you have not read much Wells, or that you haven't paid much attenti..."



1. H.G. Wells. I've read _The Invisible Man_ (don't you remember me commenting on it in this group?) and I found his prose style so-so. I've read _War of the Worlds_, prose style ok, though I admit I really liked the first couple sentences of the book. Concerning _The Time Machine_, which I've read too, professional science fiction and fantasy writer Matt Hughes had this to say:
"
I thought I'd read that before, but it's been fifty years.

Wells would have trouble selling it today. Hemingway and Dos Passos kicked off a literary revolution in the wake of the Great War, and nothing's been the same since."

It was in a discussion about opening lines in this forum:
https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/blog/forum...

2. Isaac Asimov. I've read all his Foundation novels, some short stories, and some of his non fiction. Elsewhere I stated that I considered Asimov--one of my heroes--to be one of the best non-fiction writers. But sorry, his fiction style, while not bad, is just serviceable.

3. Card. Card is good. Ballard's prose style is better though.


message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan Budd (susanbudd) | 130 comments Regarding the prose styles of SF novels, if we're simply saying some are good prose and others are bad, then Wells is good. I read The War of the Worlds (review) not long ago and I liked it. It was a well-told tale. But I would further distinguish between books that have a good prose style and books that have a literary or even poetic prose style. That's where I would place Ballard. My high praise of The Drowned World (review) was largely based on his poetic prose and the mood he created. The story without the poetic style would not have impressed me as much.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) | 718 comments Jim wrote: "Rafael wrote: "Science fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with social and political issues mostly. There's no science fiction without them."

SF can deal with anything it wants. Some of my ..."


I agree completely. SF can deal with any subject and any topic and anything it wants to deal with. There are plenty of empty-headed space opera books that are all about action and adventure. Nothing wrong with that at all if you're seeking entertainment. There are also plenty of SF books that use the future world to make observations about our own world, or even about philosophical issues such as most of the works of PKD who is a favorite of mine. There's no need to be snobbish about it - SF can be a lot of things to a lot of different people. We can all read the types of books we want and ignore the ones we aren't interested in.

As for Ballard, I haven't read him, but based on the plaudits he's received from critics and peers I wouldn't overlook his work simply because he only writes dystopias (I'm not sure that's true anyway, but again I don't have any first hand knowledge here). As has been mentioned above, many readers judge a writer (SF or otherwise) by the quality of their prose, and not just the ideas they write about.


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